Ladylike, a villanelle

Ladylike

a villanelle

 

The girl, the lady, the woman, the crone:

feminine performance decides her role.

She will play sweetly, will not live alone.

 

Will she love mutely? Crush in whispers? Sewn

love letters held within wooden hoops stole

the girl, the lady, the woman. The crone

 

finds her place at the spinning wheel, the groan

of her wooden frame weaving, heart turned coal.

She will play sweetly, will not live (alone)

 

defined by her marriage but by her own

will; not by his child, but barren control.

The girl, the lady, the woman (the crone)

 

wields thread and needles, hope secure as bone.

Stitching by moonlight to midnight bell toll,

she will play. Sweetly, will knot. Live alone,

 

tying frayed ends and wearing her work home.

Proud blood of pricked fingers. Spinster is whole.

The girl, the lady, the woman, the crone;

she will play sweetly, will not live alone.

Cosmos

Cosmos

 

there is no space

you could say

you are out of space

outer space

there is no space

to breathe

spaces between

inhale and exhale

where you

hold your breath

because letting go

is difficult even in

the smallest ways

but you do it

regardless

of the tension

you hold deep

in your gut

and the tightness

in your chest

you let go

and feel

no space

between your ribs

crushing absence

silence deafens

bright black

empty

there is no space

Kickers

Kickers

 

At two years old,

sturdy red boots

carried you in uncertain

stomping steps, a wide gait

and arms outstretched

for balance

and the reassurance

of a helping grown-up hand.

 

At eighteen,

you discovered

the red boots

in grown-up sizes,

felt uncertain again,

walking a new life

in a new city,

supported by stomping

confidence again,

but this time,

no hands,

arms swinging

by your sides,

on your own.

Service

Service

 

When you drive at a steady speed,

covering miles and miles of grey

land, simply because you must

to get from origin to destination,

you can forget the constant motion,

tune out of the earth you’ve travelled,

the consistency makes you feel still

– and then you leave

the motorway, and you slow down,

the numbers fall on the dashboard

and eventually you come to a halt

and realise, this is what stopping

really feels like. This is what it means

to be truly still.

Tongue-tied, a sonnet

Tongue-tied

a sonnet

 

The cold room echoes with the cries of those

who came before, it bristles with the sighs

of fretting parents, new to this. You doze

in Dad’s arms, unaware. Here to cut ties.

 

You hunger but cannot connect, you mime

for hours, barely fed, and fuss throughout

the day and night, your puckered mouth, each time,

stays dry. Your tiny fist grips, latching doubt.

 

The smallest scissors make a cut – red flash,

scrunched face, the briefest squeal, a squeeze of sweet

to greet your little mouth. Only a dash

of sugar water, mingled but replete.

 

The white coat reassures, No memory.

Pink cheeks forgive the unknown readily.

Apart

Apart

 

Our love has survived

longer distances than this.

Letters delivered across cities,

borders, oceans, carried our

adoring words from one home

to the next, kept us going

until the next arrived.

Treasured tokens of temporary

gratification found their way

and reaffirmed all that came before.

 

Now, when we are so close,

only untouchable, barely beyond

outstretched fingertips, time zones

and the great Atlantic obstacle

seem minor concerns.

Unconscious

Unconscious

 

You do it without thinking –

habits set in motion by the

dawn chorus. Roll out of night’s comfort

into the cool of empty morning space,

shiver as your bare feet meet

the floor, lean and kiss your

dozing lover’s cheek. Blurry-eyed,

to the kitchen, to the kettle,

make a hot drink (and a second).

Stirring (tap, tap) now your lover sits

upright with a book in her lap.

Sink back into shared warmth,

breathe into humble domesticity

before the day loses its intimacy.

The accident, a dizain

The accident

a dizain

 

Look away. Your eyes are surely burning

with the stare. Blink. Let the lids lapse, take it

all in, and break the gaze you’ve held, yearning

for another’s ill fortune. Take exit

number three, coming up on your left. Sit

with what you’ve seen. What did it mean? Bright lights

flashing, doing their job. Mouths drawn so tight

on stern faces you could balance a small

spirit level on the upper lip’s plight.

The people behind have slowed to a crawl.